I am every serene yogi’s worst nightmare.
I’m the person who shows up five minutes before class starts, frantically searching for a place to roll out my mat, perspiring because I know I’m late, and now everyone can see I’m late. My stream of consciousness plays at high speed, sounding something like this: "I couldn’t find a parking spot, I lost my towel, now I’m in the front row of the class reserved for the A-students when I should be lurking in the shadows at the back of the room with the dust bunnies and lost shoes. My right shoulder is freezing up, no doubt the first symptom of carpel tunnel syndrome, and just look at how fat my legs look in these pants. Did I leave the oven on? Did I turn off my cell phone? I won’t ever be able to touch my toes, never mind get my heels on the floor in a downward-facing dog. And now I’m supposed to sit here peacefully in meditation, breathing in one nostril and out the other, I should have blown my nose before coming in here. Set my intentions, set my intentions. And now I’m clearing my mind. Focus! Come on now, focus. This is exhausting, I’m so inflexible. Why am I here again?"
I’m here because I’m the product of too many hours in the car, at my computer, slouched on the phone. Too many hours slumped on the couch and drooling in front of the television, desperate for some release. Too many times of skipping the stretch and cool down after spin class—too many other pressing things to get done. Too many times of ignoring a massage therapist’s warning advice to not carry such heavy bags on my shoulders. Oh, the poetic irony of that statement.
I might be able to do 30 pull-ups in a row, but now this chronically aching 36-year-old body is waving the white flag as I struggle to extend my arms straight up by my ears. The zest and zeal for back-breaking exercise has evaporated. My muscles are raw and sensitive to the slightest exertion. I’ve overdone it for the last time; I can’t ignore my inflexibility anymore.
Our bodies are meant to run, play, work hard—but like any piece of machinery, they require proper upkeep and tender loving care. When you fall behind on your scheduled maintenance, tires go flat, oil dries up, shocks wear out, and then next thing you know, you need a new transmission. When you reach this threshold of diminishing returns, your overall athletic performance suffers. Your body becomes out of synch. You lose sleep, it becomes harder to concentrate. You feel restless, and you tell others you are out of sorts. Some exercise physiologists will say that these are the symptoms of overtraining. I say these are the symptoms of under-caring for your body and self.
So for this working stiff, I can longer say, “I’ll stretch later.” Because “later” has finally arrived on my doorstep, wearing an overly dramatic black cape and looking suspiciously like the Grim Reaper. So I’m taking a stand, hopefully standing straighter. I’ve subscribed to My Yoga Online. I’m committing myself to a year of more “yin” and less “yang.” Even though every inflamed muscle of mine cries out during a yin practice, demanding to know why we aren’t climbing ropes and running a marathon. Those are comfortable activities, familiar and easy.
Instead, my muscles and I are taking a few deep breaths and setting some intentions. I promise those muscles that we will climb ropes and run again soon, as soon as this stubborn stiff learns how to achieve a little more balance. And as soon as we can sit still for five minutes.
Carrie Kelley Kufta has a degree in Sports Management, is a certified Cross Fit Instructor and personal trainer.Carrie holds certifications for a number of group exercise genres, including yoga, Pilates and indoorcycling. She and her husband are the proud parents of seven rescue pets, and they live in West Palm Beach, Florida.